Home Experts Mia Parres and Rob Evans Chat About HGTV’s “The Expandables”
With HGTV’s The Expandables on the air in January, the spirit of home makeovers is setting the mood for 2015. Real Style had the chance to chat with the show’s hosts, Toronto-based interior designer Mia Parres and contractor Rob Evans. Here’s what these two home experts had to say about their new show, best tips for re-designing your space and their shared passion for design.
Real Style: How has your education in architecture and interior design helped you to embrace this new role with HGTV’s The Expandables?
Mia: Having a degree in architecture and interior design has lended itself in lots of different ways to me, just in terms of my path as a designer. One of the best things would be understanding the architecture side of things. When I’m working with Rob and his team, I can understand the construction side of things. At the end of the day, when I come in as a designer, it’s easier for me to embrace the difficulties and challenges that come along with the construction side and the architecture side. But, I am more into the finishing touches.
Real Style: What can we expect from your new show?
Mia: What can you expect? The great thing about The Expandables is that Rob and I come in our team and we completely transform existing spaces. So, families who have bought a house for a particular reason, maybe they wanted to move out on their own or start a life together and they’ve had a couple of kids. Things get a little bit crazy! What we do is we come in; we take their existing square footage and make things feel a bit bigger. We expand on their existing space.
Real Style: How has the experience of shooting and working on homes here in Canada as part of the show been for you?
Mia: It’s actually a wonderful experience to be working all over Toronto and we’ve got such a great Canadian team, so everyone is really enthusiastic about that. As a designer having grown up in Toronto, it’s also interesting to see a lot of the existing houses and see how we can transform them. Some of these houses are 80 years old and seeing them come back to life is really exciting.
Real Style: As an interior designer, what are your five best tips for re-designing your space for the winter?
Mia: That’s a very good question. I would say, in terms of things that we’ve dealt with on The Expandables, making sure that everything is insulated properly would be a really good thing. Having proper, brand new windows will help a lot with heating and cooling. You want to make sure that everything is up to date. Definitely a good, working HVAC system. I know that’s been a big thing in a lot of the houses. Having proper heating, and having lots of soft, cozy layers. Elements like blankets, pillows, furniture, that’s a big thing in Canada, I think. We have our summer wardrobe and our winter wardrobe, and it’s the same with your home. You should have a lot of cozy layers.
The last thing would be a working kitchen, so you can make a good, hot cup of tea! Rob would agree with that, he’d want it just so!
Real Style: What have been some of the biggest challenges of your work on HGTV’S The Expandables?
Rob: The biggest challenge, to be honest, is that I’m a new host. The building portion is easy, and as you’ve probably noticed, the talking- I talk too much! So, that part is fine, and I’ve got probably too much character! The schedule is tough. To be shooting and building and hosting a show is far more demanding than I thought it would be. Once we got into a rhythm, it worked out great, but I wasn’t ready for “Hey Rob, can you tear down that wall, build a new one and by the way, can you have a conversation with us while you do it?” It was a lot to get used to, and for the crew, too. For Brandon, Tony and Anna, it was new for them as well. The free lunches and the free tea and coffee were awesome, but we didn’t realize the amount of work it was going to take to do it.
Real Style: Of course, there’s always a lot of work involved in overhauling an entire home. Which leads to our next question- what is your favourite part of working as a contractor, and why?
Rob: There are two. The big one (and this is going to sound a bit grandiose) is you are changing people’s lives. You are taking something that wasn’t working for them, a massive investment on their part on their own home. They’re entrusting you with, first of all, this massive investment and a bunch of money, and you’re kind of delivering for them. You’re doing something that they can’t, and the appreciation that they give you back is awesome.
The other side is just the aesthetic. I like beautiful spaces, I like making those, I like being hands-on. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if I didn’t have to lift something, I’d be very happy! It kind of brings you back to reality, the building portion of it. You can say all you want about how something looks, and how something should be, but there’s something intrinsic about actually building it yourself. I really still enjoy that part, after 12 years. I’m hoping that it stays.
Real Style: What compelled you to make the switch from design to working as a contractor?
Rob: It was actually pretty natural. I’ve always built. My father did a lot of building for himself. He wasn’t a craftsman by any stretch, he was more about economics. He had three sons who were just a labour force, so me and my two brothers. We just always knew, as kids, that we were building, or we’d be renovating this or changing that. I’ve always build all my life, and after about ten years of the design world- it’s a more corporate environment. I can tell a client why things should be a certain way, but there are so many fingers in the pie at that point, where you just have to resign yourself to the fact that it’s just going to be the way they want it. They’re paying the bills to go and do it. I didn’t lose interest, but I really wanted to get back to doing things the way I wanted to see them done.
That kind of manifested itself in building, by giving homeowners design and build at the same time. Most contractors will hire a designer, or a space planner or a space layout person, but I find it really comfortable to do that role as well as we go through, and then the finishes as well. So it’s kind of an eye for the details, an eye for the design, and I like the hands-on building portion of it.
Real Style: How has the experience been working with your colleague on the show, interior designer Mia Parres?
Rob: Mia and I are from two different ends of the spectrum. I’m a 48-year-old builder who eats donuts, and Mia comes from a glamorous design and architecture world. Somehow, they meet. Mia’s eye for the aesthetic and mine are very similar. We both care about the same final product. I am a harsher, louder version and she is softer. You know, this sounds too “fairy tale”, but it’s a beauty and the beast thing where she likes stuff done and I can get it done.
We actually get along in the real world very well. She’s way more down to earth than she seems and we do connect on a lot of levels. When I first met, I thought “we’re two different people.” It didn’t end up like that at all. We get along very well. She jokes like the rest of the crew, she fits in really well. She also takes design tips from me, too. The plaid shirts are all me, and the construction boots she wears- I told her to wear those!
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